While much of the private land in the Conservation District is either uplands or farmland that was converted from wetlands many years ago, the wetlands that do exist are diverse and an essential part of the landscape. Wetlands located along streams and low, flat areas of the uplands play a key role in protecting water quality, controlling floodwaters, and providing habitat for a wide range of wildlife. Wet meadows are an increasingly rare feature that can be host to uncommon native wildflowers, grasses and pollinators. Existing ponds compensate for some of the lost emerging and open water wetland habitat and provide homes to amphibians and turtles. WMSWCD works closely with landowners who own these types of wetlands to preserve, protect and enhance them. We also help improve shrub-scrub wetlands and riparian areas, which are an important focus for the Conservation District. Find out more through our Healthy Streams Program and Habitat Restoration Program.
The lowlands of the District, located along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, also provide off-channel habitat for salmonids. Specifically these sloughs, lakes, floodplains and marshes play a key role in the early life history of coho, Chinook, chum and steelhead. Juvenile salmon, heading from their upper watershed birthplaces, stop in these areas to feed and grow before heading out into the ocean. Equally importantly, these areas serve as refuges during floods on the Willamette and Columbia – offering safe, slow water outside of the roaring currents in the main channel.
The Conservation District works closely with partners as well as public and private landowners to protect and enhance these types of wetlands. One is the Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project. This $6.665 million project seeks to restore and protect 3,000 acres of off-channel, floodplain lake and associated wetlands. Sturgeon Lake is the largest of these types of habitat and in addition to benefiting salmon, it offers a winter home to around 200,000 geese, duck and other waterfowl as well as many species of amphibians and turtles. For more information on this project, visit the Sturgeon Lake page.